How Woodes And The Kite String Tangle Became Tornado Club, And Made One Of 2021’s Best Debuts
The quietly stunning 'Reset' EP is a must-listen.
Earlier this year, the world was introduced to Tornado Club.
The collaborative project is the brainchild of Elle Graham and Danny Harley, who you might know better by their solo names: Woodes and The Kite String Tangle, respectively. The two have been stalwarts of the local music scene for years now — last year Woodes released her long-awaited debut Crystal Ball, while TKST unleashed his sprawling C()D3X album, his second.
Graham and Harley have been friends for years, and last year they both had a lightbulb moment and decided it was time to get in the studio together. Of course, lockdown in Melbourne then hit — so a large chunk of work was done in isolation, the two artists building out a Dropbox with snippets of ideas.
Eventually, they stiched together a full EP, Reset, which landed last Friday. It’s a glittering pop record — Harley’s spacious and icy production providing the perfect bed for his and Graham’s vocals.
We asked the pair to dig into the record together, to talk through the (slightly frustrating) process of creating it, and what it’s like to put an album out in the fractured environment of 2021. Get stuck in.
Elle: So today we put out our first EP called Reset — what’s it all about, and what’s your favourite song?
Danny: Feels so nice to have it out in the world! It’s six tracks (five originals and a sneaky Tatu cover). I think my favourite song is either ‘Intuition’ because it kind of was the nucleus that the rest of the EP was built around OR ‘Let Go’ because I just love a big epic moment and that song definitely has that. How about you?
Elle: I think ‘Intuition’ definitely holds a soft spot in my heart cos it started everything off — it was just this pretty special day as a friend/songwriter, feeling like we weren’t doing music for releasing it or showing anyone else. It was just unravelling a situation and working through it, which is a beautiful thing, to have music as a tool for that. I listen to it and I’m right back in that space at your piano.
Danny: It’s pretty great being able to share the wins and the losses as a duo rather than doing everything solo. It’s been pretty fun to be ‘in a band’ again. How are you finding it?
Elle: I love being in a band! I need to get one of those “I’m in a band!” shirts. I haven’t really had that experience before like you had with your band Pigeon (so good!) — I only really played in bands in highschool around my town and there wasn’t really a ‘set’ dynamic, it was very organic and just experimenting really.
But I really have been enjoying this duo we’ve created after five years being solo for Woodes. It’s been a significant refresh to be able to bounce ideas off another person that you trust — and really cool to make music that has a middle point or goal between your interests. I think at the start we had talked about the idea of making a duo as a pretty hypothetical situation, to just see where it led and what we’d sound like, but as it’s gone on I get really excited for what comes next — the live show, the evolution of sound.
Danny: Yeah I’m loving having multiple outlets to somewhat compartmentalise my various musical tastes. It’s great to have someone else involved in the reactive process so that we can drag each others’ vision into a middle ground of our tastes and influences. I mean our influences turned out to be quite similar anyway, but I think our individual music sounds quite different to one another but the meeting point between the two feels really obvious.
Elle: Yeah I know what you mean. I think it’s cool with Tornado Club, since we’re coming at it with mutual influences (Like Sigur Ros/Tourist/Four Tet/KLLO) it’s ended up really sounding so much like what I do listen to. I often listen to Tornado Club demos around the house. I love creating a cinematic pop world with Woodes, but also am always listening to electronic music so yeah it’s cool to have these two clear outlets for those things.
You’ve spoken about how we’ve fused nature and architecture for the design around Tornado Club. It’s interesting to me that architecture and specific spaces inspire you (makes me think of Brian Eno and his Airport music!). What other things inspire the world of TKST? How did you go about us meshing our worlds together for this?
Danny: Yeah I love where Tim Lovett ended up with the artwork for the EP as a cross between our two aesthetic worlds. Your more nature and ethereal vibe and then the more structured repeating forms I’ve been using lately for The Kite String Tangle.
I got into photography for a bit there and was always really inspired by architectural photographs with clean lines and angles that are for some reason just so pleasing to the eye. Particularly brutalist architecture. That definitely carried over into my last round of press shots for TKST. It was hard to find a brutalist building in Sydney though.
Ah, it feels like a distant memory travelling interstate. How did you find doing a lot of the EP remotely during lockdown? We obviously got that initial few sessions at my studio in Brisbane but then it was pretty remote from then on.
Elle: Sydney used to be like a second home, it feels so strange not visiting friends there for so long. I’m glad that we got to have an initial five days together in your studio and then maybe it was four or five days in my home studio in Melbourne. It was a good amount of time to really set the tone and write a lot so we had things at different stages for the remote ‘finishing’ stages.
I found some parts with remote music-making a little frustrating I suppose. Like when you’re writing music and you hear a chord in your mind, or a way of doing a build, it’s super easy to just go to the piano and show the other person and it’s done in a second rather than finding ways of explaining it with voice memos or bouncing lots of little things, our Dropbox grew very full! Grateful for speedy technology but nothing quite matches the flow of being in the same space.
I think after getting over that initial frustration it opened this amazing new door of being fluid with it. We’d add bits and then show the other person and be independent with the process in our little bubbles, but still have the perks of being able to bounce ideas off someone else, which really got me through lockdown and kept the pace up for finishing things. It required trust, but it was also just really fun to see how it’d turn out, like this grand experiment. Some of the songs were entirely remote like ‘Let Go’ and I think that one was exciting because we have gotten to a point where we can create a full track remotely in a couple days, so we know what’s possible.
“I think the fact that Australia is a remote island has always had its perks and its complications — particularly for a touring artist.”
Danny: That trust thing was a silver lining I think. You really need to just have faith that the other person shares the vision, which would be pretty natural to bands or collaborators that have been working together for ages, but for us I think lockdown was a real catalyst to make that happen really quick. That feels like so long ago but at the same time we’re still dealing with all the same border closures and uncertainty around venues. Do you think it’s had an impact on the Australian music scene and how music is being released here?
Elle: Absolutely. I think the fact that Australia is a remote island has always had its perks and its complications — particularly for a touring artist. But this is a whole new level! To try and tour here at home, there’s so much rescheduling and uncertainty — we can’t really plan like we’d like. It feels like a big risk, and literally every time we have planned interstate travel it’s changed.
I think pairing that uncertainty with the feeling that we’re not essential in the eyes of higher powers really adds a lot to it. I’d just love to perform this EP live! We’ve been thinking up so many good ideas for the live show! What does it look like in your head?
Danny: I think it will make it that much sweeter when we finally get to play a show. For me, it’s a really tightly synchronized lighting show with some set design on stage and it will go between some quite dark electronic dance moments and some really beautiful restrained and intimate moments. Like from a Moderat-style show to a Ry X-style show. They’re the ends of the spectrum for me in terms of what I think our show is capable of. Is that similar to how you saw it eventuating?
Elle: Yeah definitely. I remember us both talking about Nanotak’s live show and thinking…oh we can go to a whole new level here. Performing as a duo is exciting to me, since we both play a lot of instruments and put a lot of value on the visuals of a show. Making an immersive experience. The idea of including super atmospheric guitars and creating percussive builds together is awesome too, just generally blending acoustic and electronic elements from scratch. Keen to make it happen soon. What are you up to for the rest of the day before the EP listening party?
Danny: I have champagne chilling in the fridge. How about you?
Elle: Champagne sounds excellent! I’ll track down some champagne too.
Tornado Club’s EP Reset is out now via Warner Music Australia.